The Roswell church fight resurfaced on local television news tonight, this time from the perspective of Old Paths Baptist Church Roswell:
The Old Paths people successfully portray themselves as part of a national group called Watchmen for Christ, and there is no comment from Church on the Move Roswell. Local police appear only to define what constitutes disorderly conduct. The clip also fills in one gap for me: Jeremy De Los Santos and Joshua De Los Santos are brothers, both active in Old Paths and in the street preaching group. I had previously thought there was just one person, and his name had been variously and occasionally inaccurately reported in the press. Honestly it isn’t clear from the clip on KRQE who is at fault; it’s pretty tightly edited, and it’s hard to tell one party from another when everybody is wearing suits. It is clear that only one side (the Old Paths folks) is carrying handheld video cameras. See also coverage at God Discussion [link]. I get the feeling that this is a developing story, and we haven’t heard the last of the OPBC folks.
It may be my imagination, but they appear to be using the same typeface (not to say message content) we’ve already seen in various Fred Phelps/Westboro Baptist Church clips.
Second and unrelated, Los Alamos ELCA youth pastor Matthew Nichols entered a guilty plea back in October to one count of distribution of child pornography and attempted distribution of child pornography as part of plea agreement [PDF]. I don’t have much to add to the DOJ press release; the plea went largely uncovered outside of one article [link] in the Los Alamos paper. If there was any followup regarding other illegal activity involving children on the part of the defendant it went unreported. The whole thing sounds really sad; Mr Nichols is 58 and faces a term of not less than 15 years and not more than 40 years. My grasp of sentence term vs. parole eligibility is pretty poor, so I have no idea how old Mr Nichols will be when he is released from prison and registers as a sex offender.
I don’t understand the Nichols case at all; his past convictions were in another state and he wasn’t required to register as a sex offender when he moved to Los Alamos; a background check might have picked up on his criminal record, but neither a local school system nor the ELCA found out about his past. I can’t honestly hold the ELCA nor the local church responsible for his actions, apart from maybe being a bit more careful about their computer. The DOJ press release, apart from being a piece of PR for the program that caught him, just sounds really grim. The only piece of journalism I’ve ever heard that attempted to explain his tendencies, a radio documentary from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio National program 360 [link], I couldn’t listen to for more than a few minutes. It contains a frank first-hand description of methods and practices of child molesters, so listener discretion, as they say, is advised.
A couple of Sundays ago street preachers from one Roswell church got into a fight outside with pastoral staff of another Roswell church. The Albuquerque Journal put together a summary of television news stories [link]; they describe the street preachers as “religious protesters” from Roswell’s downtown fundamentalist KJV-Only Old Paths Baptist Church (OPBC) [link] who got in a fight with pastors from suburban nondenominational Church on the Move Roswell (COTM) [link] after visiting a Roman Catholic church and a Kingdom Hall the previous day.
A quick visit to the websites of the two churches suggests among other things that the group from Old Paths were more street preachers than protesters. In fact they’re a pretty vanilla fundamentalist independent Baptist church in a lot of ways (pre-trib, KJV-only, cessationist, etc.), except for their commitment to “confrontational street preaching.” On this score their apparent affiliation with the author of a street preaching blog [link] suggests to me that they’re sort of in the Fred Phelps mode of confrontational self-styled Old Testament prophets. Or something like that. The Old Paths head pastor, Joshua De Los Santos, became a Christian five-plus years ago through a jail ministry and lists several street preaching association events as part of his 2010 calendar. They list a physical address downtown; I can’t find anything at that address on Google Street View, but that probably just means they’re renting their building. Their mailing address is a Post Office box.
Church on the Move, by way of contrast, has a big building with two services on Sunday mornings, seven or eight pastors on staff, and educational connections to Oral Roberts University and Vision International University [link]; the former, of course, has Pentecostal ties, while the latter has a somewhat complicated accreditation history.
The news reports suggest that the OPBC men were the aggressors; the blog article above suggests the COTM men were mostly to blame:
So Brother Jeremy went out to ‘love thy neighbor’ Sunday morning, 1John 3:18 style and later stood in front of a non denominational church where the pastor and elders came out swinging. The religious brass of this church manifested with cussing as they tried to move the Street Preachers off the sidewalk. Police were called in and after only getting information from the Church, arrested the 3 Street Preachers (Jeremy, Justin and Caesar) for assault and disturbing a religious meeting, the Church service started at 9AM and they were arrested at 8:40AM. How in the Gehenna did they interrupt a religious service?
One member from the church was also arrested after he came out swinging a bat. This was all on video tape; however the police department took the video camera and cell phones as evidence. Oh, did I mention that several officers attend this particular church?
I have to hope that this is not the shape of things to come in Fundamentalist-Pentecostal ah interfaith relations; I have assumed that the loud, angry, sign-waving street preachers, including the Westboro Baptist Church crowd, are savvy enough to know that violence isn’t in their best interest. I mean, WBC claims some 30,000 protests [link], and to my knowledge they’ve never been involved in a dust-up that included someone “swinging a bat.”